(May 2012, Seattle, WA): A woman, “Jane Doe” (name omitted to protect her privacy) from Grays Harbor County won a $2.85 million dollar lawsuit against The state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) for failing to protect her from physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her father, Mr. Doe, who has several allegations against him that he molested children.
The lawsuit was filed in 2009, when “Jane Doe” sued DSHS and the social worker who handled her case, claiming they did not properly investigate her allegations of abuse and neglect. The lawsuit claims “Jane” was molested by her father, Mr. Doe, beginning at age 13, and drugged with alcohol so she would not be able to fight back. David P. Moody, the attorney representing “Jane”, said his client endured “near daily physical and sexual abuse after a botched child-abuse investigation by DSHS.”
In 2004, Mr. Doe won custody of “Jane” and her younger brother after he claimed their mother was abusing drugs and neglecting them. There were frequent police calls to Mr. Doe’s home, in Sumner, Pierce County, that he was giving alcohol and methamphetamines to minors and had solicited underage girls for sex and to play strip poker.
Mr. Doe was later arrested and charged with child molestation, providing methamphetamines to minors, attempted child molestation and 5 counts of communicating with a minor for immoral purposes. Sumner police conducted interviewed several children, who said Mr. Doe has molested them. Some of the children were young as 6 years old. A 16 year old came forward with a complaint that Mr. Doe enticed her into having sex with him.
The paternal grandmother was given temporary custody of the children, and stated both children were doing well in her care. A DSHS investigation on behalf of the children began. Within a week of his arrest, Dr. Doe was bailed out of jail and granted visitation with his children, to be supervised by his mother.
Jane Doe was interviewed and denied abuse (this is a common occurrence for abuse victims, who often will not talk about use out of fear, shame or trauma bonding. These children need the safety and support of an experienced child therapist to help process and cope with what has happened). DSHS determined that their investigation of Jane Doe’s complaint was an “inconclusive forensic exam for evidence of sexual abuse.” So that state closed the case as being unfounded. No criminal charges were filed against Mr. Doe.
The lawsuit says that DSHS did not take steps to protect Jane Doe, even with “a litany of warnings from members of the community including concerned neighbors, local law enforcement and no less than five other children who report that they too were molested by (the same) abuser.”
DSHS reported that best practice would have been for the social worker to follow up with law enforcement and pursue other information before closing the initial referral. Instead, the lawsuit claims, the social worker allegedly told Mr. Doe that she could not stop him from getting an apartment and moving in with his children.
In the fall of 2004, both children were returned to the care of Mr. Doe. He moved the family to Raymond, Pacific County. Jane Doe says the physical and sexual abuse continued.
In May 2005, Jane Doe ran away from home and reported the abuse.
In November 2005, the Raymond police conducted an investigation of Jane Doe’s allegations then charged Mr. Doe with 14 counts of incest, molestation and rape.
In February 2006, Mr. Doe entered an Alford plea and was convicted of felony sexual abuse of a minor and sentenced to 4 years in prison; he also has to register as a sex offender.
“DSHS believes that the agreement fairly compensates this young woman, who can use the proceeds to meet any special needs she may have in the future,” said Thomas Shapley, spokesman, in a press release.
The state says it has made several changes to how DSHS takes a complaint and investigates, including:
*Doing more than follow-up and investigation, rather than just taking a child’s word that they are not being abused or neglected.
* Conducting a more thorough follow-up before closing a case, including interviewing family members and others.
* Implementing a higher level of review for all safety plans and improving supervisor training.
* Changing the protocol for responding to critical incidents.
* Strengthening the emphasis on child safety through comprehensive assessments in all child protection and child welfare programs.
National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline: Call 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area. Support, resources and referrals available. https://www.rainn.org/get-help/national-sexual-assault-hotline
RAINN Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault State Resources: https://www.rainn.org/get-help/local-counseling-centers/state-sexual-assault-resources
Stop It Now! Together We Can End the Sexual Abuse of Children. Resources. Support. Education and more: http://www.stopitnow.org/
“State agrees to pay $2.85 million to woman in child abuse lawsuit” by Stacy Mulik, The News Tribune, 5/4/2012: http://blog.thenewstribune.com/crime/2012/05/04/state-agrees-to-pay-2-85-million-to-woman-in-child-abuse-lawsuit/
“State pays $2.85m settlement in case of child sex abuse” by Lornet Turnbull, The Seattle Times, 5/4/2012: http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/state-pays-285m-settlement-in-case-of-child-sex-abuse/